[lg policy] Language (Policy) Matters!

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Tue Mar 29 14:51:45 UTC 2011

Language (Policy) Matters!

“I ascribe a basic importance to the phenomenon of language. To speak
means to be in a position
to use certain syntax, to grasp the morphology of this or that
language, but it means above all
to assume a culture, to support the weight of a civilization.” - Frantz Fanon

Public education has a vital role in ensuring that this and subsequent
are successful in a global, multilingual economy. In this What Matters brief, we
examine how teachers, students, parents and communities in our nation’s schools
can create rich opportunities for students to learn. Educators and
policy makers have
an obligation to ensure that ALL students have equitable opportunities to learn,
meaningful participation and engagement in school, and successful outcomes.
In this brief, we explore the complex issues that surround one of the
aspects of what makes us human: the languages that we use to communicate,
express, refl ect, and infl uence others. Long after a generation has
left us, their
deeds and wisdom live on in their oral and written histories and
commentaries. Each
of the world’s languages offer nuanced ways of describing the human condition
from the Laplanders in Finland to the Maori of New Zealand. Indigenous
as well as
widely spoken languages inform and are infl uenced by the multiplicity
of languages
that inhabit our world. Language contains nuanced understandings of the
world around us. By hearing about the world through the structures and design
of multiple languages, our collective understanding is enriched and deepened.
Our individual perspectives are bounded and some would say constrained by the
languages that we understand and speak Languages seem to develop a life and
trajectory of their own. Some become increasingly dominant while others dwindle
in popularity and use. Each year the world runs the danger of losing
more and more
indigenous languages as global languages like Chinese, English, and
Spanish anchor
themselves in wide fl ung communities across the globe. Learning about the
importance of language in representing the world in which we live allows us
to understand how language shapes our realities. Language is a powerful
expression of the world around us, and should be appreciated and celebrated as a
resource that students and families bring to school rather than a
barrier to assimilation.
Studying and becoming profi cient in more than one language builds a capacity to
understand and use language skillfully in multiple languages. Because languages
can be structured differently, the mental schemas that use language to store and
retrieve information can become more powerful by becoming fl uent in more than
one language. Languages offer clues into the cultures from which they emerge,
so language learning is another way of understanding and developing cultural
fl uency as well. Multilingual approaches provide access to new
cultures, information
and knowledge, and opportunities to forge new economic and political alliances.

More at http://www.niusileadscape.org/docs/FINAL_PRODUCTS/LearningCarousel/Language-Policy-Matters.pdf
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